EFF sets its sights on 'frivolous' IT patents

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is gunning for a group of patents that it claims are frivolous and may pose a threat to freedom of expression online

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called for assistance in its attempt to have 10 technology-related patents overturned.

The civil rights organisation claimed on Wednesday that the patents in question are frivolous, and may threaten free expression and innovation. The EFF is also unhappy that the companies who own them have, it claims, all threatened or brought lawsuits against small businesses, individuals or non-profit-making groups.

"Patents are meant to protect companies against giant competitors, not to help them prey on folks who can barely afford a lawyer," said EFF staff attorney Jason Schultz. "We hope our project will not only assist the victims of these abusive patents but also help make the case for global reform of the patent system."

The patents in question are:

  • Acadia Research's patent of an 'audio and video transmission and receiving system' for distributing data over telephone, cable or satellite broadcast channels;
  • Acceris' patent of a 'method and apparatus for implementing a computer network/internet telephone system';
  • Ideaflood's patent of a 'system apparatus and method for hosting and assigning domain names on a wide area network';
  • Test.com's 'method of making a tests, assessments, surveys and lesson plans with images and sound files and posting them on-line for potential users';
  • Firepond's 'automatic message interpretation and routing system';
  • Clear Channel Entertainment's 'system and method of creating digital recordings of live performances';
  • Sheldon F. Goldberg's 'method and system for playing games on a network';
  • NeoMedia Technologies' 'system and method for automatic access of a remote computer over a network';
  • Nintendo's 'software implementation of a handheld video game hardware platform';
  • and
  • Seer Systems' 'system and method for generating, distributing, storing and performing musical work files'.

Further details can be seen on the EFF Web site.

The EFF is looking for examples of prior art for all these patents, in the hope of persuading the US Patent and Trademark Office to revoke them. The EFF reserved its fiercest criticism for Acacia Research, which is claims has "litigated relentlessly against small businesses" when enforcing its patent. "Victims of Acacia's legal threats include Web sites that host home videos and several "mom-and-pop" adult media companies," said the EFF.

Acadia had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing. Other companies named in the EFF "most wanted" list are reported to have strongly rejected the foundation's claims, insisting their patents are valid and defending their right to enforce them.